Tag Archives: project proposal

Ignore my previous proposal

The more that I have been thinking about my project, the more I want to change it. Originally, before my post about science fiction, I wanted to put my thesis online, in a format that would be more engaging that just reading a bound collection of text on paper. I was having a difficult time conceptualizing how I could successfully implement my thesis online, and felt that I might be sick of my topic if I focused on it for two classes. However, today I thought of a way that I might put it online and have decided to change my project back.

My thesis topic is on online deliberation. I am interested in a discussion of the public sphere outlined by Habermas, where in a successful implementation of the public sphere, individuals are able to speak freely with others, discussing issues and ultimately coming to a consensus. This type of public spheres allows for “deliberative democracy,” a type of democracy that is seen as more aligned with actual democracy than how we see democracy carried out today. The Internet is seen as a forum where deliberative democracy can materialize; the system of the internet, in theory, is open to everyone.

I wrote one chapter on online deliberation and e-democracy, a sort of lit review. My second chapter was on Twitter and Facebook and how users of social networks in devloping countries can use the internet as a medium for social change when organizing on the streets is prohibitive. I am working on a blogging chapter now where I am arguing that feminist blogs allow for women to participate in the public sphere with greater access and scope. My last chapter is on online education tools. I want to probe at the question of whether or not having educational tools available free and accesible online aids in online deliberation and more informed discussion.

SO, my project would be to put the text online available to read. However, the website would make the topic more interesting and engaging to a reader that didn’t want to sit down and read a 60+ page paper. Each section would have short “blog” type entries on the topic, links to my sources, links to similar websites with ideas on deliberation, and graphics. Finally, I would hope that I could set up an environment where online deliberation could take place about online deliberation and some of the theories and questions that I raise in my paper. This way instead of having a paper with a closed argument on deliberation, I could start an on-going discussion of ideas – sort of a free flowing of ideas about my topic.

My paper accompanying the website for Writing Machines would analyze how my topic changes from a paper in a traditional sense to being a paper published online. I want to analyze the differences and how as a writer I feel like my work changes when seen through different display mediums, using the readings of the semester as a tool to navigate these ideas.


My term project will be a piece of creative non-fiction exploring the question (roughly) of how we got from ‘punk’ to ‘cyberpunk’ and beyond. I wrote my term paper for Marxism and Cultural Studies last semester about punk rock and punk culture in the 1970s, so I see this project as a way to build on my research while bringing the subject a little closer to the 21st century.

Science fiction author Bruce Bethke coined the term “Cyberpunk” in 1983 as the title for a short story of the same name. Cyberpunk (a portmanteau of “cybernetics” and “punk”)  became a sci-fi genre in its own right, popularized by the work of authors like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, as well as retroactively applied to earlier work by J.G. Ballard, Phillip K. Dick, Thomas Pynchon, and even William Burroughs. According to the Wikipedia entry on cyberpunk, the cyberpunk narrative is characterized by “advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.”

I’ve always been intrigued by the various ways “punk” has become a catch-all term for an anarchic, dystopian aesthetic, and particularly in the ways this sensibility manifests itself on the Internet, arguably the space in which many of today’s major upsets in the social order are orchestrated. Cyberpunk hit its peak of cultural vogue in the early 90s and mercifully faded from the pop-cultural radar (until the Matrix trilogy came out and blew teenage minds worldwide, anyway) but traces of the sensibility linger tantalizingly in many aspects of digital culture today.

I’m still figuring out what form the project will take, but it will definitely include multimedia, fragmentary thought processes, some web code craziness, and otherwise depart interestingly from the standard academic essay format.

As a starting point, here’s a charming article entitled “Cyberpunk R.I.P.” by Paul Saffo, from the Sep/Oct 1993 issue of Wired.

Various other points of interest…

Cyberpunk in pop culture

  • Hollywood tries to make computers look exciting, hilarity ensues (eventually, the Matrix)
  • Cyberpunk in comics and anime. The future of cartooning, cartooning the future
  • In music, the subject of several concept albums, including Billy Idol’s universally-panned 1993 album Cyberpunk and David Bowie’s better-recieved 1. Outside
  • …and, more broadly, the futuristic aesthetic manifested in various post-punk musical genres including noise, industrial, and electronic music

Cyberpunk and cyberculture

  • The romanticization of the hacker as postmodern outlaw
  • Sci-fi goes postmodern, postmodernity goes sci-fi
  • Wired magazine and (post)cyberpunk ideology
  • Punk/DIY culture in the ’90s and its relationship (if any) to hacker/”maker” culture in the late ’90s and ’00s